Lake Norman & Mooresville

Taking music in an unexpected direction

This display of violins in 2010 at Frank Albert’s shop includes one from the 18th century.
This display of violins in 2010 at Frank Albert’s shop includes one from the 18th century. LUKAS JOHNSON

When 7 String Theory takes the stage, and each member is spotted carrying a stringed instrument – a violin, a cello, a viola – most listeners think they know what to expect. Perhaps a piece by Brahams? A suite from Bach?

Not exactly. Instead, the group opens with the strains of Imagine Dragons’ hit, “Radioactive.”

7 String Theory may use instruments usually characterized as classical, but the music they play is anything but traditional. The professional electric orchestra was formed by Davidson Violins owner Frank Albert, a fixture in the local music community.

In addition to opening the dedicated string shop in South Main Square in 2008, Albert is also a music teacher at Langtree Charter Academy in Mooresville. He studied music at Virginia Commonwealth University, spent 10 seasons with the Salisbury Orchestra, has taught preschool music and run a studio.

7 String Theory is an experiment in taking stringed instruments in another direction.

The group consists of three electric violinists, including Albert, a standard cellist, a string bass player, a drummer and a percussionist. There are no vocals, only instruments.

Song choices include Kansas’ “Carry on My Wayward Son,” as well as theme music from the video game “Halo.”

“I wanted to create a professional group that plays string instruments like a rock band,” said Albert. “We are truly a fusion of orchestral strings and a band. Our drummer and percussionist learn music by ear like bands typically do, but the string players are often reading written music.”

Alban was inspired by friend Mark Wood’s Electrify Your Strings program, which introduces orchestra kids to a whole new world of rock music on their own instruments. Wood’s program is typically a school orchestra student’s first introduction to a violinist that plays an electric violin, but is a rock musician in every other way.

7 String Theory uses the Viper electric violin that Wood invented and built. It “has a huge range; it is possible with some looping pedals to play like multiple string players as a solo act,”Alban said.

“Music played as a group of musicians, whether an orchestra or rock band, has a beautiful energy,” he said. “So I created a group that could play festivals or concerts that orchestras or chamber groups are never invited to, but without losing the unique and beautiful sound only bowed strings can create.

“The group is also to inspire orchestra kids to explore many styles of music. The future professional string musician needs to be as versatile as possible.”

One way 7 String Theory will inspire kids is at the “Cool Jazz, Hot Rock” concert 4 p.m. April 25 in Cannon School’s Performing Arts Center. The concert will include several songs from 7 String Theory to introduce kids to the versatility of stringed instruments.

Albert also offers a Youth Rock Orchestra camp through Camp Cannon over the summer, which is open to any student from rising seventh to 12th grade.

Amy Reiss is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Amy? Email her at amysalvatorereiss@gmail.com.

Want to go?

Here are other venues to catch 7 String Theory:

7 p.m. April 24 - Spring into Spring, South Main Square, Davidson.

5 p.m. April 25 - Cool Jazz/Hot Rock Concert at Cannon School, 5801 Poplar Tent Road, Concord.

7 p.m. May 16 - ‘Tawba Walk, Oak Street Mill, Cornelius.

7 p.m. May 17 - Concerts on the Green, Davidson Library Green, Davidson.

For information, go to rockorchestracamp.org.

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